Benzodiazepines are among the most commonly prescribed medications for fighting anxiety. Unfortunately, they’re also notoriously addictive and can create serious – even life-threatening – withdrawal symptoms (which many doctors neglect to mention). Having a benzodiazepines list in order of strength can help you identify which ones are the most effective for your treatment.
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are considered anxiolytics and anticonvulsants – that is, their two main functions are helping prevent anxiety and seizures. They do this by working on the brain’s GABA system.
GABA is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that helps to balance out the effects of other excitatory neurotransmitters. GABA helps us feel relaxed and calm and can reduce symptoms of anxiety or stress. Benzodiazepines encourage the GABA system to function at a higher level, which helps reduce anxiety and limit seizures – both of which can be caused by higher-than-average levels of our excitatory neurotransmitters.
Unfortunately, this very same mechanism is the reason that benzodiazepines can be deadly. There are two ways that benzodiazepines can be fatal.
- As powerful relaxing compounds, benzos can lead to respiratory depression. At high doses, you may stop breathing and fall asleep, which can lead to death.
- Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines can cause seizures. As your body becomes dependent on these drugs to manage its GABA system, it ‘forgets’ how to operate that system on its own. If you suddenly stop taking benzos, the lack of GABA function can lead to your excitatory neurotransmitters ‘taking over,’ which can cause rebound anxiety and seizures.
For this reason, it’s important to make sure that you limit your benzodiazepine use. Only use them when it’s necessary, and try to avoid repeated daily use. A benzodiazepines list in order of strength can help you and your doctor figure out which benzos are best for you.
Benzodiazepine List in Order of Strength
This list will tell you which benzos are strongest. It’s also important to consider the duration of these benzos. Longer-lasting benzos are better for generalized anxiety while shorter-lasting benzos are useful for stopping panic attacks.
Diazepam is the ‘gold standard’ benzodiazepine and is often used to measure the potency of other benzodiazepines. As such, this chart provides equivalent doses to 5 mg of Diazepam, a standard therapeutic dose.
- Triazolam (Halcion) dose 0.25 mg. Very short duration.
- Clonazepam (Klonipin) dose 0.25-0.5mg. Long duration.
- Lorazepam (Ativan) dose 0.5-1mg. Intermediate to short duration.
- Alprazolam (Xanax) dose 0.5-1mg. Short duration
- Flunitrazepam (Hypnodorm) dose 1 mg. Long duration.
- Diazepam (Xanax) dose 5 mg. Long duration.
- Nitrazepam (Alodorn) dose 5 mg. Long duration.
- Bromazepam (Lexotan) dose 3-6 mg. Mid-length duration.
- Clobazam (Frisium) dose 10-15 mg. Long duration.
- Temazepam (Normison) dose 10-20 mg. Short duration.
- Oxazepam (Alepam) dose 30 mg. Short duration.
These are the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines. It’s important that you let your doctor know that you are interested in using the minimum required amount of benzodiazepine.
If you are planning to stop using benzodiazepines, it’s important that you gradually reduce your dosage to prevent going into withdrawal. Talk to your doctor about weaning or switching onto less powerful, longer-lasting benzodiazepines or consider using natural GABA-enhancing supplements.